Black Man Says in Lawsuit Cop Told Him He Was 'Going to Die' After Minor Traffic Violation

A Black man filed a lawsuit against five St. Louis-area police officers who allegedly beat him before performing an unlawful search of his apartment.

Tranell Stewart, 38, was approached by a Maryland Heights police officer after pulling into his apartment complex parking lot on Oct. 26, 2016, after the officer said Stewart failed to use his turn signal, which Stewart denied.

When Stewart went to retrieve his son from the back seat of the car, Devuton allegedly grabbed Stewart's hair and attempted to pull him to the floor, saying, "You're going to die today."

Tranell Stewart
This image provided by ArchCity Defenders public interest law firm, shows the battered face of Tranell Stewart, 38, who alleges in a lawsuit that was filed in federal court on Monday Oct. 25, 2021, that officers with the Maryland Heights, Mo., police department hit, kicked and stomped on him after accusing him of a minor traffic violation on Oct. 26, 2016. He and his then-girlfriend, Lisa Jones, also allege officers illegally searched their apartment after the assault. ArchCity Defenders via AP

The lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of Stewart accuses officers of unlawful seizure, excessive force, unlawful search and charges Maryland Heights for liability due to its history of police stopping and searching Black motorists.

The lawsuit alleges that when other officers joined the scene, they hit and punched Stewart and continued to physically harm him after he was in handcuffs. From there, the officers underwent a search of Stewart's apartment.

Stewart's former girlfriend Lisa Jones and a neighbor witnessed the incident.

"I want people to know how Maryland Heights police operate," Stewart said. "I can't say anything positive, I can't say be safe because these are the people who are supposed to be protecting and serving us. It's like we're under attack."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Stewart suffered a fractured nose and a black eye and emotional pain and fear, and the illegal searches also caused Stewart and Jones concern for the safety of themselves and their children, the lawsuit said. It seeks compensatory and punitive damages but does not name a specific amount.

Stewart said in a statement released by ArchCity Defenders public interest law firm, which is representing him, that he wants police accountability.

The lawsuit accuses the city of not addressing years of unlawful seizures and searches involving Black people. When Stewart was arrested in 2016, Black drivers were pulled over at three times their demographic representation in the city, according to data submitted to the Missouri attorney general's office.